Charges Dismissed For Publicized Same-Sex Union Because Disobedient UM Pastor And Witnesses Did Not Show Up At Hearing!
|Pastor Won't Face Methodist Church
BY JULIA MCCORD
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Nebraska United Methodists have been spared the spectacle of putting another of their pastors on trial.
A church investigative committee has concluded that the church cannot prove that the Rev. Mark Kemling performed a covenant ceremony June 3 for two men at the Metropolitan Community Church in Omaha.
The United Methodist Church forbids same-sex ceremonies. Kemling, however, publicly announced his intentions to challenge church law after the national church rejected gay-rights legislation at its May meeting in Cleveland.
An employee of the Metropolitan Community Church told The World-Herald that the ceremony had taken place and that Kemling had officiated. A church complaint was filed against Kemling soon after the newspaper story was published.
The 43-year-old Omaha minister, however, has declined to confirm or deny his participation since June.
Nebraska Bishop Rhymes Moncure Jr. said Sunday that a lack of eyewitnesses was a deciding factor in not proceeding with a trial. In addition, he said, Kemling is on leave from pulpit ministry and the alleged ceremony did not take place in a United Methodist Church.
Moncure must now dispose of the complaint against Kemling. He said he doesn't know how long that will take.
A second-generation United Methodist pastor, Kemling took a leave of absence from pulpit ministry in 1995. He enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1997 and graduated with a master's degree in social work in 1999. He now works at Together Inc., a multifaith emergency relief agency at 1616 Cass St.
Kemling said he is relieved that he doesn't have to go to trial. He continues, however, to air his views on what he considers his church's wrong-headed and contradictory stances on homosexuality.
The United Methodist Church says God's grace is available to all people, Kemling said. But then it refuses to ordain or marry practicing gays and lesbians.
"We exclude this group over and over again from the full life of the church," he said. "I don't know how we can do that."
Covenant ceremonies are not a new issue for the 94,400-member Nebraska conference.
In March 1998, a Nebraska church court narrowly acquitted the Rev. Jimmy Creech of charges stemming from a covenant ceremony he performed for two women at First United Methodist Church in Omaha.
In November 1999, a second church court convicted Creech of presiding at yet another same-sex ceremony and defrocked him.
Moncure and Kemling met for the first time Sunday at Creech's old church. Kemling sings in the choir at First United Methodist, 7020 Cass St.
Moncure preached at both the 8:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. services.
"He's a good preacher," said Kemling.
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